It is quite strange at this time when electronic devices have such a prominent role in our society, that two furniture product ranges that use a method developed over two hundred years ago can attract so much attention. There is nothing new in the materials or the method in these products, we had all just forgotten how good this relic of the industrial revolution could be.
Wrought iron is a term that gets misused quite a lot. Wrought iron is not the filigree lace metal work seen on old colonial buildings that many people associate with the term – this is generally cast iron - instead wrought iron is created by heating and hammering iron bar or rod into shape and bending it while red hot into the desired shape. It is easily welded and highly versatile and traditionally associated with countries like Spain where the genuine technique is still used for making gates, balustrades and decorative balconies and continues to be highly prized.
The two design studios that have recently brought the method back into the limelight are Vittorio Venezia and Studio Bouroullec. While the French brothers, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec are almost a household name, Vittorio Venezia is not.
An architecture graduate from the University of Palermo, Venezia moved to Milan in 2007 after winning a string of design awards before he had even completed his degree. These days Venezia shares his time between Milan and Palermo and works for a variety of companies such as Alcantara, Falper, Meritalia and Internoitaliano. In April Venezia exhibited as part of Salone Satellite (the young designers showcase held as part of Salone del Mobile) and won the 2015 Design Report Award for his ‘Ferro’ and ‘4Decimi’ collections. As the name would suggest ‘Ferro’ is all about iron.
The range was inspired by brazier grills manufactured in a particular street called Via Calderai in Palermo. CNC cut from 5 and 10mm iron sheet, bent into shape and welded, the collection of one table, five seats, six flowerpot holders and a doorstop, offers a unique expression based around the accentuation of an object’s outline.
The second collection ‘4Decimi’ doesn’t involve wrought iron but does rekindle some interest in another under appreciated skill – that of sheet metal work. In this instance Venezia utilized the talents of one particular local craftsman from his hometown of Palermo, that of Nino Ciminna, an 86 year old veteran of the craft.
The name of the collection comes from the fact that the sheet steel used is 0.4mm thick. The range of lights are all based around parts of funnels and watering cans – the mainstay of Ciminna’s tiny workshop and are a progression of a modern interpretation of a watering can called ‘Idro’ Venezia co-designed with Giulio Iacchetti for Internoitaliano in 2014.
Venezia collaborated on the project with Carolina Martinelli and was the happy recipient of a cheque for 7,500 euros from Design Report.
Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec really shouldn’t need any introduction. The two French brothers have designed a massive number of quietly ground-breaking products for brands such as Cappellini , Vitra, Magis, Established & Sons, Hay and Flos (to name just a few) over the last 17 years since they first came to the attention of Cappellini in 1998 with their ‘Disintegrated Kitchen’ and ‘Soliflor’ vase. It would be hard not to consider them amongst the best contemporary furniture, lighting and objects designers working in the world today.
‘Officina’ is something like the ninth project the Bouroullecs have created for Italian plastic specialist, Magis but relies not on plastics know-how but on the open mindedness of the brand’s founder and president, Eugenio Perazza. His interest in alternative manufacturing methods was responsible for giving the green light to Konstantin Grcic’s adventurous die-cast aluminium project, ‘Chair One’ and Perazza has again shown his sixth sense for design and manufacturing, understanding the poetry the Bouroullecs could weild with wrought iron.
The collection was originally released at Milan in 2014 and consisted of a number of tables with wrought iron bases and stone, glass or timber tops. Due to the highly favourable reaction the collection received, this year it was enlarged with a number of chair and stool variants that use the same visual and material language but which this time also incorporate plastic for seats and back rests.
The resulting furniture has extreme sophistication and refinement yet maintains the imperfection that is so much a part of wrought iron as a material. This rough, random element lends an honesty to the product that is rarely found in industrially made furniture. The hand of the maker is visible and an integral part of its startling beauty.
The film below is a beautiful four minute journey into the making of the 'Officina' products, directed by Juriaan Booij.
The interview below was filmed with Erwan Bouroullec during IMM Cologne 2015, Here Erwan talks about how the 'Officina' collection came about. You might notice that Erwan goes from a clean shaven young man on the opening image to sporting a beard in the video. This might be an accidental capturing of the passing of 17 years.........